TIME TO BURY PRINT MEDIA?


The blogs are agog. The main-stream print media is joining with the enemy. Magazines are coming to the web. Tonight Google Blog Search lists 52 blog stories on the revelation That Time Warner and a myriad of others are to produce electronic magazines featuring all of the wonderous wizardry of modern technology.

My background is magazine publishing. My wife has worked on magazines as an illustrator and writer. My elder daughter is a magazine designer as is her husband; she also produces a Blog (Samselectr). My younger daughter is a journalist and edits a magazine; she also produces a blog (Kissing Frogs & Eating Snails). So the family is firmly embedded in the industry and have been since my wife and I were young. in

Since Christmas 1996 I have intermittently produced an on-line photographic magazine dpii as a hobby. At times it has come out monthly; lately there has been one issue a year. I mention all of this to indicate that I have an interest in both camps. Both printed magazines and those on the web have a place in the scheme of things. Each as advantages and disadvantages.

For some time the media (on-line and off) has been blathering about how newspapers should respond to the challenge of the new media because of plummeting revenue from both paid sales and advertising.

None of this is new. It has been apparent for a very long time that the traditional print media has to undergo tremendous change if it is to remain competitive, and even relevant, in the face of the web (and what ever comes next). The problem has been that no one quite knows what to do about it.

A couple of days ago The Wall Street Journal (and a number of other sources) carried a piece headed “Publishers announce their “Hulu for Magazines” outlining that the US magazine industry “is to finally announce that it is forming a joint venture to distribute and sell digital versions of its products.” Specifically Time Inc, Conde Nast, Hearst, Meridith and News Limited have formed the joint venture.

About time one would think. In a way. They have stated their intentions, now the problem is to find a way to do it. Conde Nast thinks that Apple’s yet to see the light of day tablet computer is the way to go, using a form of Adobe PDF. Conde Nast has shown a mock-up of what Sports Illustrated might look like on such a device.

To achieve this Apple and Amazon (which markets a mono, not-so-good, gadget called the Kindle) will have to play ball and participate in the sales and marketing of the program. And I can’t see any compelling reason why they should.

This venture seems to have two objectives: to create some sort of standard within the (US) industry and allow traditional publishers to maintain their current positions rather than becoming glorified content providers.

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